September 2021 Homestead Update

I’m back!

I haven’t actually gone anywhere, other than a trip up north to visit husband’s family, but it’s been far too long since my last post. Things have been quite busy around here, as you can imagine, and many of my spare moments these past few weeks, between harvesting, prepping our gardens, baking and selling for market, and caring for Baby Homesteader, have been used for straight up napping and unwinding.

But here I am today, because three weeks without a post is far too long. It’s a homestead update today, with the promise of recipes in the future as we get into coveted fall and holiday baking, as well as end-of-summer preserving. Yay!

Sheet Mulching

So, firstly, but really the most recent project here, is sheet mulching a new bed in the front yard for winter vegetables, as well as a possible Three Sisters Plot. (Either that, or I’ll be sheet mulching another large swath in the front come late fall for the latter.) It may be a bit late in the season to get it going, but September crept up on us, and starting it is better than nothing!

I ran out of actual mulch, so I’ll be getting more ASAP to cover the rest of that cardboard.

Why, you might ask, are we sheet mulching instead of tilling? Sheet mulching allows the soil to retain nutrients, and it naturally converts sod and grass into workable garden space. It requires no herbicide or pesticides, and the cardboard (c’mon, you know you have a ton of it from ordering crap online) does an excellent job of repressing weeds while also giving worms something delicious to eat. It’s a lot of work upfront, but it makes general upkeep of the garden easier, and does most of the work of tilling without tilling, with time.

I’m hoping to plant some of our regular brassicas (collards, radishes, and kale), mustard greens, parsnips, and carrots either in this plot, or in one of our cover-cropped beds in the big veggie garden, depending on how quickly the sheet mulching works on the grass and the estimated first frost.

We’re also planning to re-vamp the back veggie plot entirely, transitioning from a row system to raised plots and circle beds. I’m hoping this makes it easier to rotate veggies, cover crop, and do more successful companion planting, as well as just look nicer. Also, rows on our sloping plot are killer for erosion.

Harvests and Whatnot

Speaking of sheet mulching, our small sheet mulched bed has produced a buttload of produce this summer, much more than our big veggie plot. I’ve spent a very small amount of time controlling the weeds in the bed (like, literally two times I’ve gone to pull weeds all season), and we’re getting a plethora of tomatoes (Cherokee Purple and Mr. Stripey), bell peppers, hot peppers, and kale.

We’re also getting a good amount of small peppers and herbs from our porch garden, and we’ve recently bought a lovely blueberry bush that will hopefully do better as a container plant than any blueberry bushes ever did in our yard.

As for the big veggie plot, as I mentioned before, we’ll be changing up our plans for it, as well as revitalizing the soil as needed with cover cropping and soil amendments over the winter. It has not produced much of anything for us this year, save a few decent okra, tiny tomatoes, jalapenos, and enough cucumbers to fill two quart jars with refrigerator pickles.

Our darned corn got massacred by some nighttime animal (a racoon or a bear, perhaps), which I’m quite sad about. I’m also more determined than ever to get a Three Sisters Bed (corn, beans, and squash) to work next year. I’m eating corn next year, DAMMIT.

So, long story short, while I’ve been preserving some this year, most of the produce is coming from other local farms. Not bad, but I’d certainly rather preserve my own crops.

Butternut Squash

The one exception to our poor harvest in the big veggie bed has been our butternut squash, which is currently and beautifully taking over the back half of the plot with many, many enormous fruits.

I am SUPER stoked to have storage squash again, and it makes the poor harvest of our other crops less painful, including our almost-candy roaster, which fruited and then promptly died. Sigh. So cheers to Zev’s squash, which are growing from seeds we saved two years ago, huzzah!

Fruit Trees

Most of our fruit trees that we planted last year are doing quite well. Husband and I keep going back and forth on whether or not the plant here is our fig sapling that was thought to have died. However, I recently saw a plant that looked just like this little guy, with fig fruits, so I’m gonna call a fig a fig.

We’re planning to plant another tree or two in the front yard a) because we want more fruit or nuts, and b) there are no trees in our front yard to block out the absolutely brutal sun that shines on our front porch and through our front windows during the latter half of the day.

We’ve got a persimmon or pawpaw growing currently, but we’d certainly like more!

This one’s actually in the back, and I still can’t remember what’s what.

That’s about it from here! Chickens are laying eggs and getting along, blackberries are done, and we’re enjoying life as a family on our little homestead. Until next time, happy homesteading, and happy almost-fall!

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